Stressful events and adolescent mental health outcomes : examining attributional style and parent-adolescent communication as moderators
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Adolescents experience multiple transitions during early adolescence and are likely to experience stressors, which increases their risk for poor mental health outcomes. Research has established positive associations between stressful events and psychological symptoms in early adolescence. It is important to consider factors that may strengthen or weaken the impact of these stressors. Extant literature suggests that a pessimistic attributional style (PAS) can increase vulnerability to depression in the presence of stressful events; yet less research has confirmed these links with anxiety. Conversely, some research has found that open communication (OC) with parents is negatively associated with adolescents' stress, and therefore may help adolescents perceive events less negatively and experience fewer symptoms. Additionally, the associations between OC and parental warmth were examined. Thus, it was hypothesized that a PAS may serve as a risk factor, whereas OC with parents may serve as a protective factor for early adolescents' development of anxious and depressive symptoms in the context of experiencing stressful events.;In this study, 134 early adolescents (M age = 12.75, SD = .88; 59% female; 76% Caucasian) completed paper-and-pencil questionnaires in classrooms. Partial correlations controlling for participants' gender, academic grades, family standard of living, presence of a biological mother, and school determined associations between stressful events and adolescents' anxious and depressive symptoms. However, PAS was specifically linked to anxious symptoms, while both parents' OC was specifically associated with adolescents' depressive symptoms. When maternal warmth was added as a covariate, mothers' OC was no longer associated to depressive symptoms. In contrast, the link between fathers' OC and anxious symptoms became significant when controlling for paternal warmth. To examine the influence of PAS and parent adolescent OC on the association between stressful events and adolescents' anxious and depressive symptoms, regression analyses were run separately for each type of parent and outcome variable. PAS moderated the association of stressful events to depressive symptoms, where this association was only strengthened when PAS was high. The interaction between stressful events and fathers' OC predicting anxious symptoms was marginally significant; however, the interaction became significant when controlling for paternal warmth. Specifically, when fathers' OC was low, the positive association between stressful events and anxious symptoms was strengthened. Implications of how specific types of moderators (i.e., internal vs. external factors) may influence adolescents' psychological functioning, in the context of stressful events, are discussed.